October 07, 2011

Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder

I love this series. It doesn't matter how old I get, they just keep getting better and better. When we last left the Ingalls family, they were enjoying life in the Big Woods of Wisconsin where Ma and Pa had built their home and lived among family with their three little girls, Laura, Mary, and Carrie. Now, spurred on by his love of travel, Pa has decided to take the girls and Ma and head West for new adventure.

They load up the wagon and with goodbyes from their family, head west to the great prairies to Indian territory, where they hope to make a new home. Pa finds a great spot not too far from a river and starts building the house by himself, with a little bit of help from Ma. They meet some of their neighbors and as they get settled in life happens. Whether it be sickness, celebrations, Indians, or fires, life isn't that dull for the Ingalls. They do their best at surviving well using only the resources they are able to obtain easily for themselves and yet remain happy. They live in this house for a year and get along just fine until forced to move on.

I hesitate to call them characters, as they are based off of real people and are more of Laura's telling or diary of her own life, but they are great characters. She does a good job of expressing the family dynamic and even going so far as to show herself truthfully with all of her faults. To me, that is wonderful, as she isn't trumping herself up to be the best of all. At times, her depiction of Ma doesn't seem quite fair, but as a child I can see how she'd view her mother as a sterner authority figure while her dad was more jovial of a person.

Not only does Wilder do a great job of writing this book, she makes it informative as well. When I was a kid and reading this I didn't pick up on nearly the amount of instructions on homesteading that I do now. In fact, with just a little extra help from a diagram, I'm pretty sure you could make a door without nails just by her description of when she helped her dad build one. She also offers a very simplistic outline of building a log cabin as well. These and other little tidbits are a treasure trove of knowledge if you read right. Another great thing Wilder does with her writing is express how much job the simple things can bring. When Pa builds Ma a new rocking chair, they celebrate! This is wonderful because it really makes you appreciate the little things and see how even that was really doing good for the times.

There is a small warning for these books however. Due to the time they were written in, there are several view points and words that could be considered racist. Most specifically in this book, this would apply to Native Americans. Ma herself isn't a big fan of them, but Pa likes them so they seem to balance each other out a bit. Still, it does have the potential to offend.

Such a beautiful series and I always voraciously read them as quick as I can as I hate to put them down. These especially seem to be great books for the holidays as well and are perfect for reading with a nice hot cup of cocoa. Little House on the Prairie is a wonderful book for both adults and children.

Little House on the Prairie
Copyright 1935
335 pages plus illustrations from Garth Williams

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